On May 31, then-Turkish President Abdullah Gul visited Harvard University. The event coincided with the one-year anniversary of the Gezi Park protests. Emrah Altindis, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School, dared to remind Gul of the anniversary and asked whether he was embarrassed to be the president of Turkey. He said, “How do you sleep at night when your prime minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] declared a 14-year-old child [referring to Berkin Elvan] a terrorist? You have blood dripping from your hands.” Gul responded with visible disdain, saying, “Nobody will give you permission to ask such questions,” as he went on to explain how Altindis was blowing things out of proportion.
In early June, Altindis told Al-Monitor that he was aware that he would not have been allowed to complete such a sentence had the event been held in Turkey. The reactions were mixed, with overwhelming public support for his courage and the expected rage from anonymous, pro-government social media stalwarts. At the time, everyone thought the matter would blow over, but that was incorrect.